WRC - Tänak sets impressive pace and takes an early lead on Rallye Monte-Carlo | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

WRC - Tänak sets impressive pace and takes an early lead on Rallye Monte-Carlo

21.01.21

Ott Tänak won Thursday afternoon’s opening two speed tests to claim the early lead at Rallye Monte-Carlo.

2021 WRC - Rallye Monte-Carlo - O. Tänak/M. Wydaeghe (photo Red Bull Content Pool)

The Estonian crashed heavily in the FIA World Rally Championship’s season-opener 12 months ago, but there were no mistakes today as he ended the short opening leg with a 3.3sec advantage over Kalle Rovanperä.

Tänak, driving a Hyundai i20, won the 20.58km special stage from Saint-Disdier to Corps by 3.0sec from the Finnish youngster. He added a further three tenths to his lead by taking the following 20.78km test from Saint-Maurice to Saint-Bonnet, despite stalling at the start.

Conditions in the opening test were wet but patchy ice early in the next stage made grip unpredictable. Nevertheless, Tänak, like virtually all the leading crews, opted for Pirelli’s supersoft compound asphalt tyres.

Rovanperä enjoyed a trouble-free run in his Toyota Yaris to end the day 5.2sec clear of team-mate Elfyn Evans. The Welshman was almost caught out on a slippery right corner in SS1 and struggled to generate heat in his tyres in the early part of SS2.

Thierry Neuville was fourth in another i20, 16.0sec off his team-mate’s pace. The Belgian was co-driven by Martijn Wydaeghe for the first time after splitting with long-term partner Nicolas Gilsoul last week. The pair settled in well, despite sound problems in the intercom.

Sébastien Ogier started his title defence in fifth, less than a second adrift of Neuville. The Frenchman had intermittent brake problems in his Yaris but had almost half a minute in hand over Dani Sordo, who was unnerved by a strange noise in his i20.

Pierre-Louis Loubet was seventh in a similar car, 25.1sec adrift of the Spaniard, with FIA WRC2 leader Andreas Mikkelsen next up in a Škoda Fabia. Fellow support class contender Adrien Fourmaux was ninth with a frustrated Gus Greensmith tenth in his Ford Fiesta.

Takamoto Katsuta was just off the leaderboard after spinning his Yaris in both stages.

Teemu Suninen was the first retirement. The Finn set a storming pace through the opening test and was on course for fastest time before running wide into a bank, rolling back across the road and plunging down an embankment.

In the support championships, Andreas Mikkelsen delivered a measured drive in changeable conditions to open up a slender 8.9sec lead in the FIA WRC2 category.

Adrien Fourmaux was second in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally2. The Frenchman found a perfect rhythm during the second stage to take the fastest time whilst beating a handful of WRC runners in the process.

Volkswagen Polo pilot Nikolay Gryazin was 17.1sec further back in third, although the Russian driver has nominated Monte-Carlo as a non-scoring round.

Citroën C3 Rally2 star Eric Camilli was 12.7sec down on Gryazin in fourth, with Marco Bulacia ending the day fifth, 1min12.3sec adrift of the leaders in another Fabia.

Sean Johnston conquered his lack of Tarmac experience to end the leg 43.6sec behind Bulacia in sixth his Citroën, whilst Italian driver Enrico Brazzoli completed the leaderboard. His Škoda stopped for a handful of minutes during the first stage and he eventually finished 12min 04.3sec back from the top spot.

In the FIA WRC3 class, Yohan Rossel found himself at the head of an all-French podium blanketed by With the lead under control, Rossel opted for a relaxed approach to the following stage and eventually rounded out Thursday’s leg with a 7.6sec advantage over Citroën C3 rival Nicolas Ciamin.

With the lead under control, Rossel opted for a relaxed approach to the following stage and eventually rounded out Thursday’s leg with a 7.6sec advantage over Citroën C3 rival Nicolas Ciamin.

Ciamin’s position was less secure as he faced monumental pressure from Yoann Bonato, who was just 1.5sec behind. Bonato, driving another C3, started slowly, but capitalised on his previous Monte-Carlo experience to claim the SS2 victory by a whopping 11.8sec.

Friday hosts the ‘meat’ of the rally with almost 105km of competition across five stages west of Gap. Two loops of two tests sandwich a single pass through the longest stage of the weekend. The action kicks off before dawn at 06.10, with service after the first three tests.